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Theonomy: an extension of Calvinism’s judicial theology

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Dean C. Curry, in a review of Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, writes that John Muether’s “The Theonomic Attraction” is a “first-rate analysis of why theonomy is thriving.”[1] I beg to differ. Curry’s praise for Muether’s evaluation of the “theonomic mind-set”[2] tells me that Curry has done little if any reading of Reconstructionist works. The same can be said regarding Mr. Muether, as his footnotes clearly reveal.

This is typical. I have encountered very few critics of theonomy who have addressed the arguments actually put forth by theonomy’s advocates. The critics refuse to read the published works. How do I know? Because their charges—which are legion—are so off the mark.[3] Some of the charges border on the bizarre. Just the other day, I read a letter written to the editor of a Columbus, Georgia, newspaper that accused theonomists of advocating the death penalty for anyone “who commits an act, or even thinks a thought, that opposes the organization’s tenets.”[4] It won’t be too long before we read that Reconstructionists claim they can read minds. (After reading John Muether’s article, I’ve concluded that he seems to think he can.)

Any attempt to understand the “mind-set” of those committed to a theological position like theonomy and Christian Reconstruction is futile without first doing extensive research. Discovering the reasons why living people believe something requires at least a few interviews. Muether conducted no interviews. How much first-hand research did he complete? Muether quotes from only one book written by a theonomist, George Grant’s The Changing of the Guard, and that in a footnote. (If we are to believe Timothy J. Keller, George Grant is not a theonomist.[5] This means that not one Keller-sanctioned theonomic book is cited by Muether.) He does quote from six newsletters, hardly a representative sample when one considers that about a thousand newsletters have been published since R. J. Rushdoony wrote his first Chalcedon Report in October of 1965.

On the basis of Muether’s meager research and “sociological” analysis, we are to believe that he has uncovered what attracts people to theonomy and Christian Reconstruction. He doesn’t even come close. The theonomic attraction for Calvinists is simple to figure out if you read the works of theonomists. Talking to a few theonomists might also help. Serious scholars should put forth the extra effort it takes to get the story right. If they refuse to do this, then theonomists really have no moral obligation to regard them as serious.

Calvinism and the Reformed Tradition

There is a very direct thinking process that leads someone who views Calvinism to be the most consistent expression of Christianity to adopt the distinctives of theonomy. Theonomy is Calvinism’s judicial theology applied. The reader should keep in mind that theonomy is a methodology, a way of understanding God’s law. Theonomy is not simply a body of texts woodenly applied to a modern context. Theonomy is the application of Reformed theology to the sphere of ethics. Greg Bahnsen made this crystal clear in the preface to the first edition of Theonomy in Christian Ethics. He repeats it for us in the second edition:

[T]he present study leaves a great deal to be explored and discussed in Christian ethics as well as extensive room for disagreement in the area of exegeting, understanding, and applying God’s law in specific situations. Two people can submit to the exhaustive theonomic principle in Christian ethics while disagreeing on a particular moral question (e.g., whether a certain biblical command is ceremonial or moral, whether lying is ever condoned by God, etc.) Thus agreement with the thesis of this book is not contingent upon agreement in every particular moral issue or specific interpretation of a scriptural text.[6]

In principle, theonomy states that all of God’s Word is “profitable” and applicable, equipping the man of God “for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16). Disagreements over how a passage applies is not an indictment against theonomy. Theonomists want to know, contra its critics, what exegetical reasons are used for rejecting contemporary application of God’s law. A person who dips into the Mosaic legislation and makes a contemporary application is in some sense a theonomist, even though his application might differ from what other theonomists have written. It’s the fact of application and not so much the how of application that is the essence of theonomy. By way of analogy, two U.S. constitutional theorists who agree on the doctrine of original intent,[7] but who disagree on application, are still constitutionalist theorists who believe in original intent.

As those who study the arguments for theonomic ethics soon learn, far from being “a new kid on the block,” as Muether intimates it is, theonomic ethics has always been a part of Reformed theology.[8] It’s a Reformed theology attraction that has led many Calvinists like myself to embrace the distinctives of theonomy. The belief that the Bible in its particulars can and should be applied to every area of life is a major theological distinctive that sets Reformed theology apart from all other orthodox Trinitarian traditions. Furthermore, a growing number of non-Reformed Christians have adopted much of the ethical system outlined by theonomists because of its “biblicist hermeneutic.”[9] Contrary to Muether’s views, John Monsma, an early advocate of world-and-life view Calvinism, stated that

Calvinism is nothing but Biblicism. If a government acts in accordance with the Bible, it will always be doing the right thing. If it transgresses the bounds that the Bible has placed around it, it becomes tyrannical. The New England governments, taken on the whole, were so exemplary because they were—not theocracies,[10] but Biblical governments. The men of which these governments were composed recognized the Author of governments and of governmental authority, and they at least tried, tried hard, to govern in accordance with the faith of their souls, and to serve only those ends which the Bible placed before them.[11]

According to Monsma, the New England Puritans did not believe in popular sovereignty, “as it has been anti-theistically proclaimed at Paris in 1789,” nor in state-sovereignty, “as it has of late been developed by the historico-pantheistic school of Germany.” Rather, they believed in divine sovereignty. At the end of the New England Puritan document, ‘‘An Abstract of the Lawes of New England,” published in London, in 1641, a summary of their dependency on God and His written revelation as the standard for all of life, these words, taken from Isaiah 33:22, are affixed:

For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; He will save us.

Monsma states that this was “the favorite text of the regular New England ‘politician’! Such ‘politicians’ the people honored and respected!”[12] If theonomists are guilty of “biblicism,’’ then we are in good company.

A Reformed Methodology

My attraction to Christian Reconstruction in general and theonomic ethics in particular came by way of a Reformed/Calvinistic methodology, a procedure for doing theology that I first learned while a member of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and later as a student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. The sovereignty of God over all of life became the operating principle for “doing” theology.

This principle of divine sovereignty, when applied to the Bible, demands an absolute subservience to all of its prescripts, not only in the sphere of the church, but in all walks of life. God is the absolute Sovereign of all of life; therefore His Word should be the controlling factor in every sphere of life’s activity.[13]

The Calvinism I was introduced to was more than the “five points.” Calvinism is not simply a synonym for predestination. Calvinism, as I was taught, was a world-and-life view. In its broader aspect, said Monsma, Calvinism “has a strictly scientific meaning. It is a well-defined system of ideas,—of ideas concerning God and man, concerning the moral, social, and political life of the world. It is an organic structure, complete in itself.”[14] In becoming a Calvinist, I was assured that I would find this “well-defined system of ideas” in the Bible.

As seminary students, we were heirs of Calvin’s Geneva, the Puritans, and the Hodges of Old Princeton. The Bible is the standard. All things are to be evaluated in terms of Scripture. There is to be no compromising. This was the legacy I had been given. Students a century before had embraced a similar view of life. At the Induction Service in 1877 of A. A. Hodge as Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Seminary, Dr. W. M. Paxton concluded his charge with these words:

The name of this Seminary is known in all the world. Its chief distinction is its Biblical teaching. The ground of its faith is the Bible. Its only question is: “What has God said?” Its only proof is God’s word. Its professors have never reached the point of thinking that they knew more than the Bible. This Seminary has always taught that there are but two questions to be considered: (1) Is this the Word of God? and (2) What does it mean? This ascertained there is nothing left but to believe and adore.[15]

Here is the real “theonomic attraction” within Calvinist circles. Theonomy is the judicial extension of Reformed theology. A stalwart of the Reformed faith, A. A. Hodge, made the case that “the kingdom of God on earth is not confined to the mere ecclesiastical sphere, but aims at absolute universality, and extends its supreme reign over every department of human life.”[16] The implication of such a methodology was obvious to Hodge: “It follows that it is the duty of every loyal subject to endeavour to bring all human society, social and political, as well as ecclesiastical, into obedience to its law of righteousness.”[17] This is no longer obvious to his successors.

Could A. A. Hodge get a teaching job today in any of the Reformed seminaries? Not if the same criteria were applied to his views as are applied to contemporary theonomists. What was Hodge saying that was different from what theonomists say today? If you are a seminary student or a member of a church where theonomy is scorned, read to the critics the following quotation from Hodge. Of course, don’t tell them the source of the quotation until you get their response:

It is our duty, as far as lies in our power, immediately to organize human society and all its institutions and organs upon a distinctively Christian basis. Indifference or impartiality here between the law of the kingdom and the law of the world, or of its prince, the devil, is utter treason to the King of Righteous­ ness. The Bible, the great statute-book of the kingdom, explicitly lays down principles which, when candidly applied, will regulate the action of every human being in all relations. There can be no compromise. The King said, with regard to all descriptions of moral agents in all spheres of activity, “He that is not with me is against me.” If the national life in general is organized upon non-Christian principles, the churches which are embraced within the universal assimilating power of that nation will not long be able to preserve their integrity.[18]

Hodge called the Bible the “great statute-book of the kingdom.” In effect, he was a “biblicist” who believed the Bible should be used as a textbook on social theory. But Muether tells us that using the Bible as a textbook is the essence of fundamentalism, not of Reformed theology.[19] Muether’s battle is now with A. A. Hodge. It is a mismatched fight.

The Lure of Pluralism

What replacements for the firm foundation of a biblical worldview are being offered by today’s Calvinist theologians as the essence of Reformed theology? Appeals are being made to natural law, general revelation, and common grace as seemingly full, independent, and reliable standards of ethical inquiry. The Bible appears to have become only one ethical standard among many, part of a “smorgasbord ethic.” Pluralism is the new catch phrase of those within and without the Christian community. Of course, the term means different things to different people. This is its danger. Groothuis writes:

Pluralism refers to a diversity of religions, worldviews, and ideologies existing at one time in the same society. We are socially heterogeneous. One religion or philosophy doesn’t command and control our culture. Instead, many viewpoints exist. We have Buddhists and Baptists, Christian Reformed and Christian Scientist—all on the same block, or at least in the same city. This can have a levelling effect on religious faith.[20]

With the levelling of religion, we are seeing the levelling of morality. All lifestyles are permitted in the name of diversity and pluralism. In nearly every case, Christians are the losers. Pluralism is the bait for Christians to throw caution to the wind as we are called on to “trust” secular and religious advocates of pluralism. Christians are encouraged to set aside only a few of the distinct doctrines of the faith, those that are inherently “religious.” Once these are discarded, the friendly pluralists tell us, Christians are then free to speak.

The call for Christians to adopt pluralism is just another way of diluting the truth. Pluralism becomes a club to pound flat the theological bumps that make Christianity unique among all the religions of the world. And what is the fruit of the “new and improved” pluralist worldview? Harold O. J. Brown writes:

As soon as the words “Our pluralistic society will not permit . . .” are uttered, Nativity scenes are dismantled, Christmas vacation becomes Winter Holiday, and a moment of silence in public schools is no longer merely a vain illusion but a prohibited sin against pluralism. But say “Our pluralistic society requires . . .” and homosexual activists receive affirmative action support for job demands, parents need not be notified of a minor daughter’s intention to abort their grandchild, and Rotary Clubs and saunas are gleichgeschaltet into unisex. Whether or not one endorses pluralism seems to be a litmus test for whether one is persona grata in the modern world.[21]

Christian pluralists have abandoned the very doctrines that can make a fundamental difference in this world: the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the uniqueness of God’s written revelation.

Is pluralism biblically defensible? Should the Christian in principle back off, giving equal opportunity to other competing minority or majority positions in the name of pluralism, when those positions advocate unbiblical and anti-Christian lifestyles? Do we allow abortion for competing systems when its advocates claim the “pluralist” model in defense of their position? Should the State allow “homosexual” marriages? Should the Mormons be permitted to practice polygamy, which the Mormon hierarchy has never publicly renounced as a religious ideal?[22] Should Satanists be permitted to worship according to the “dictates of their own conscience”? The Bible teaches pluralism, but a pluralism of institutions under God’s single comprehensive law system.[23] Scripture does not teach a pluralism of law structures, or a pluralism of competing moralities that have equal standing. Ethical or moral pluralism (as distinguished from institutional pluralism) is always either polytheistic or humanistic.[24] All of life is under God’s law because God judges all of life in terms of His law.[25]

Does this mean that Christians are granted special favors? Not at all. A distinction must be made between a prejudice in favor of Christians and a prejudice in favor of the Christian religion.[26] Christians and non-Christians are equal before the civil law, but all legal orders are not equal before God. “The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you” (Ex. 12:49; also Lev. 24:22; Num. 15:16). A Christian who commits a crime should be treated in the same way as a non-Christian who commits a crime—defined by God. There is no ethical neutrality in life. All laws must rest on some moral (religious) foundation. That moral foundation is either Christianity or some other religion, whether humanism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, or an amalgamation of the “best” of all these systems. But the “best” of these systems can never include what is truly best about Christianity because what is best about Christianity is unique to Christianity.

Unique views are not tolerated under pluralism. It seems to me that pluralism is fundamentally prejudiced against Christianity. This is a radical departure from our nation’s historical roots.

Can a nation that maintains no established church and regards religious pluralism as both socially inescapable and ethically desirable confidently look to religion to generate and nurture its fundamental moral values? When the founders spoke of the nurturing function of religion, they thought primarily of Christianity—Protestant Christianity—indeed, for some of them Protestant Christianity with a distinctly Calvinist flavor. In the second half of the twentieth century most of the public, as well as most commentators, have regarded the religious basis of American social values as including virtually all forms of not only Christianity but also the entire Judeo-Christian tradition.[27]

With increased immigration of religious traditions from Eastern and Asian countries and the acceptance of these traditions on equal par with Christianity, Christianity no longer shapes the moral content of American democratic ideals. What standard will be used by the pluralists to determine what of each of these traditions should be incorporated in the American ethical mosaic? Pluralism by definition rules out the unique revelation of the Bible.

Even non-Christians recognize the pitfalls of pluralism. Sociologist Robert Bellah has “sought escape from the problems created by religious pluralism by turning to Rousseau’s idea of a civil religion. Advocates of civil religion claim that broad and vaguely stated religious concepts can, without acknowledging any particular religious faith, give a kind of transcendent reinforcement to values that are deemed useful to society.”[28] But who ultimately speaks for these values? Adolf Hitler used civil religion as a way of maintaining civic loyalty. Hitler’s message in the early years of his Reich government was based on what has been described as “moral culture.” The focus of civil religion is not the individual but the social whole. “Civil religion really places the welfare of the state at the heart of human values, and is therefore easily manipulatable by those holding political power.”[29] Christian advocates of pluralism are living off the older Christian consensus which, as Francis Schaeffer has pointed out, cannot last long “when one removes the Bible in which God has spoken propositionally. . . .”[30] Reichley writes:

The truth is that democratic values, at least historically, have rested largely on a Judeo-Christian foundation. Once a system of social values has been created, it may acquire a life of its own, to some degree enriched through contact with other sources. But if the Judeo-Christian roots were destroyed, the superstructure of democratic values would probably not persist for long. If this is true, the political system is to some extent dependent on a religious tradition, or traditions, to which not all Americans can be expected to belong.[31]

There is no doubt that pluralists of all types, secular as well as religious, espouse some of the general ideals of a Christian worldview. There is a great deal of talk about “individual rights” and “justice.” But what do these terms mean in their particular applications? Individual rights for some will mean the “right” of a mother to kill her pre-born baby. Homosexual “rights” groups want full and unrestricted freedom to practice their “alternative lifestyle.” How does the doctrine of pluralism answer these requests for legal and civil legitimacy?

Pluralism was not set forth as an option while I was a student at RTS until theonomy came along and attempted to put wings on the Reformed-Calvinist “plane.” It was a commitment to Reformed theology that led me to embrace the principles of Christian Reconstruction and theonomic ethics.

Students at RTS were always told that the Calvinist biblical world-and-life-view plane would fly. Rarely, however, did we ever see a modern Calvinist plane with wings or engines. We never saw the plane actually fly. This was a frustrating experience. When the distinctives of theonomy actually put the plane in the air, the control tower would call us back for modifications to the fuselage. Yes, the plane was in the air, but we were told that it was unstable with the theonomic wings. We were told that the wings had been tried before but met with little success. And so the Calvinist plane sits on the tarmac with no place to go.

No Credible Alternative

What happened at RTS that led me to become a theonomist? Why was there such a negative reaction by numerous professors, the administration, board members, and pastors to the “theonomic attraction” that many of us saw as simply the working out of Reformed distinctives that we were taught in the classroom?

I really couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. The plane was flying. Isn’t this what we were being told should happen when the Bible was applied to every area of life? We were even able to shoot down the dispensational air force with a consistent barrage of biblical fire power. The humanist air force did not have a chance, once we forced the secularists to be consistent with their man-centered, naturalistic presuppositions. When we shut off their fuel supply (which they were stealing from the Christian fuel depot) and retrieved our stolen wings, they knew that they could no longer get their planes in the air.[32]

Maybe the critics didn’t like the theonomic plane’s ultimate destination. Fair enough. But those of us who were interested in the debate were waiting for an alternative plane to take off with a better (biblical) flight plan. None was ever forthcoming. Debate was silenced, and the pilot was dismissed.[33]

What really sold me on studying the issue of theonomy was how weak the critics’ arguments were in their attempts to ground the theonomic plane. In our classes related to covenant theology, classic Reformed (continuity) arguments were used against dispensationalism. When theonomy became an issue, students found that dispensational (discontinuity) arguments, the same arguments that were refuted in the classes related to covenant theology, were being used in an attempt to answer and discredit theonomy. Schizophrenia reigned in the mind of any thinking student.

Notes:

[1] First Things (June/July 1991), p. 54. The editor is Fr. Richard John Neuhaus.

[2] John Muether, “The Theonomic Attraction,” Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, eds. William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academie, 1990), p. 246.

[3] Greg L. Bahnsen and Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., House Divided: The Break-Up of Dispensational Theology (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), ch. 5, and Gary North and Gary DeMar, Christian Reconstruction: What It Is, What It Isn’t (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991), pp. 81-179.

[4] Sanjay Lal, “Fanaticism Still a Threat,” The Ledger-Enquirer of Columbus, Georgia (August 18, 1991), p. 3-4.

[5] Timothy J. Keller, “Theonomy and the Poor: Some Reflections,” in Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, p. 294. See Ray R. Sutton’s essay, Chapter 9, below.

[6] Second edition, Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, (1977) 1984, p. xxx. Reprinted in 1991.

[7] Meaning the original intent of the Framers in 1787.

[8] Meredith G. Kline, a Calvinistic critic of Christian Reconstruction, is honest enough to state that theonomic ethics “is in fact a revival of certain teachings contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith—at least in the Confession’s original formulations.” Kline, “Comments on an Old-New Error,” The Westminster Theological Journal 41:1 (Fall 1978), p. 174.

As Greg Bahnsen points out, there was no amendation to “the declaration about the law of God or its use in catechisms (i.e., the strictly theonomic elements of the Confessional Standards).” Revision was made to “a subsection of the chapter on the civil magistrate, aiming to reinforce disestablishment and the rejection of Erastianism (see Theonomy, pp. 527–37, 541–43).” Bahnsen, “M.G. Kline on Theonomic Politics: An Evaluation of His Reply,” Journal of Christian Reconstruction, VII (Winter 1979–80), p. 201.

[9] In a faculty discussion at RTS on July 17, 1978, Greg Bahnsen had to answer the charge of being a “biblicist hermeneutic” several times. Biblicist? Too biblical?

[10] Numerous definitions are given for “theocracy.” Monsma seems to equate theocracy with some form of ecclesiocracy where the church as an institution rules over the State. Reconstructionists use theocracy to mean the rule of God over all of life and the use of His written revelation as the standard for the governance of all of life. A Reconstructionist would use theocracy as a synonym for biblical government.

[11] John Clover Monsma, What Calvinism Has Done for America (Chicago, Illinois: Rand McNally & Co., 1919), p. 141–42.

[12] Ibid., pp. 141-42.

[13] Ibid., p. 4.

[14] Ibid., pp. 2, 3. Beattie wrote: “Hence, the Calvinistic system is seen to com­ mend itself to thoughtful minds as the sound philosophy of nature and providence, and as the true interpretation of the Scriptures and of religious experience. This system has a philosophic completeness, a scriptural soundness, and an experimental accuracy which afford it strong logical confirmation, and give it secure rational stability. It may be safely said that no other system can justify so fully this high claim, for even those who profess no sympathy with the Calvinistic system have never yet been able to present a better one for our acceptance.” Francis R. Beattie, The Presbyterian Standards: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms (Richmond, Virginia: The Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1896), p. 5.

[15] Quoted in A. A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith: A Handbook of Christian Doctrine Expounding the Westminster Confession (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1869] 1978), p. x.

[16] A. A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology: Lectures on Doctrine (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1890] 1990), p. 283.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid., pp. 283-84.

[19] Muether, “The Theonomic Attraction,” p. 283.

[20] Douglas Groothuis, “The Smorgasbord Mentality,” Eternity (May 1985), p. 32.

[21] Harold O. J. Brown, “Pluralism in Miniature,” Chronicles (May 1988), p. 13. R. C. Sproul’s discussion of pluralism is helpful. See his Lifeviews: Understanding the Ideas that Shape Society Today (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1986), pp. 119–27.

[22] The Supreme Court declared that polygamy was out of accord with the basic tenets of Christianity: “It is contrary to the spirit of Christianity and the civilization which Christianity has produced in the Western world.” Late Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints v. United States, 136 U.S. 1 (1890). A year earlier the Court declared that “Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries. . . . To call their advocacy a tenet of religion is to offend the common sense of mankind.” Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333, 341-42 (1890). Cited in John Eidsmoe, The Christian Legal Advisor (Milford, Michigan: Mott Media, 1984), p. 150. Pluralism’s operating doctrine has now opened the door for the ACLU to abolish restrictions on the marriage vow. Under ACLU pluralism, polygamy ought to be allowed. And why not?

[23] Gary DeMar, Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Blueprints for Government (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1987), chapter 2 and God and Government, 3 vols. (Brent­ wood, Tennessee: Wolgemuth 8c Hyatt, 1990).

[24] DeMar, Ruler of the Nations, ch. 3.

[25] Ibid., ch. 4.

[26] The New York spectator of August 23, 1831 relates the following: “The Court of Common Pleas of Chester County (New York) a few days since rejected a witness who declared his disbelief in the existence of God. The presiding judge remarked, that he had not before been aware that there was a man living who did not believe in the existence of God; that this belief constituted the sanction of all testimony in a court of justice; and that he knew of no cause in a Christian country where a witness had been permitted to testify without such belief.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 2 vols. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, [1834, 1840) 1960), 2:306.

Until 1876 North Carolina’s constitution required the following:

That no person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State.

[27] A. James Reichley, “Religion _and American Democracy,” The World & I (January 1991), pp. 556-57.

[28] Ibid., p. 557.

[29] Ibid., p. 558.

[30] Francis A. Schaeffer, Back to Freedom and Dignity (1972) in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, 5 vols. (Westchester, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1982), 1:379.

[31] Reichley, “Religion and American Democracy,” p. 558.

[32] The humanist, in order to keep his plane aloft, must borrow from the worldview presupposed in the Bible. The humanist plane loses altitude and eventually crashes when he assumes he can dump the fuel he stole from the pump marked “Biblical Presuppositions.”

[33] Others have observed the lack of a systematic working out of social theory by those who are best described as “critics of contemporary culture.” James Skillen points out that while Chuck Colson “offers keen insights into contemporary public life,” he stops “short of proposing anything systematic.” While “he lauds the statesmanship of William Wilberforce, the early nineteenth-century English evangelical who led the movement to abolish the slave trade,” Colson “draws too few conclusions from the study to suggest what a just political order and noble statesmanship should look like.” James W. Skillen, The Scattered Voice: Christians at Odds in the Public Square (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), p. 65.

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